So often we are told that chasing our dreams is not only a noble, but a lucrative path to pursue. Those of us who come from a privileged class, race or gender are coached in our schooling and early in our careers to shoot for the moon and land somewhere in the stars. To take the risk, stick our necks out and lead. That is certainly a model I have been operating from for the past two years, largely unexamined, having stepped away from my corporate career to begin full-time work as a medicine person. The path I have walked over the past two years has in fact been paved by dreams. Dreams for the Earth, dreams for healing, for community and for bringing more Love into the world. But more mundane and human dreams as well. Dreams to be supported financially by doing something helpful that I Love, dreams for stability and sustainability and dreams to root in land that resonates with my soul. Having made it through a two year cycle of creation, I find myself gifted with insights that have surprised me, as only hindsight can. I want to share some of what I am beginning to learn from the other side of my dreams.
What I have uncovered is that many of the ways and means I pursued to accomplish my dreams were encoded with Colonial programming that were pulling me off a path of integrity with the medicines I share. What I uncovered is that although my motives were pure, intentions sacred, containers safe, the work filled with integrity and Love, the mission focused, the screening thorough, the operating system of Capitalism (a Colonial construct) was and is very much present in contemporary spiritual healing systems. Despite rooting in the sacred every day as an individual practitioner, the collective influence of consumerism and Capitalism is tangible within the mindset of those seeking healing. This discovery has left me deeply questioning my path forward. While I did not do harm (quite the opposite!) within my practice, what has emerged out of these teachings is a deep questioning of the role I play in recreating systems of oppression within a paradigm that we call healing.
It has always been important for leaders to question their role in recreating systems of oppression, but it strikes me that now is an especially potent time to do this openly. Genocide, facism, racism, nationalism, fundamentalism are all running rampant in the collective consciousness. Those operating systems are now the lived experience of a vast swath of our global population. In addition, Big Pharma is heavily influencing the delivery of sacred medicine within a construct of industry. Venture capitalists are flooding money into young startups to create a specific ‘psychedelic industry’ that is fully fused into our capitalist financial systems. The medical industrial complex is assimilating sacred medicines into its colonial sick-care system without addressing the systemic reforms that are needed to attack the root cause of our illnesses. While some of us are committing to doing ‘the work’ of walking a shamanic path, we are still living within and benefitting from these systems that are continually recreating conditions that benefit few and oppresses many. It is these systems that create the conditions people come to me to heal. If I do not openly address how I am dismantling colonial systems in my body, how can I offer healing with integrity? How can I pray for those who are suffering when I am not doing everything I can to walk away from the causes of that very suffering?
Allow me to provide some color to this conversation with a shamanic story from my personal work in ceremony. Around six months ago my ceremony practice began to shift after my partner announced a six month sabbatical to care for family. I took that as a big sign from Spirit to also take a pause and do some integration of the medicines I had been offering every month for two years straight. One of the first things I noticed was that I literally could not afford to stop offering ceremonies. That was scary, it set off an alarm in my nervous system to pay attention. I began to question the premise that a successful healing practice in the western world is a constantly growing practice. Year-over-year growth is a core tenant of business philosophy and a definitive metric of success. More people, more money, drives growth, builds profit. This mindset is evangelically woven into mission based organizations under the guise of ‘servant leadership’. In mission based work year-over-year growth means greater impact, more people healing, accelerated awakening, more more MORE!
The growth imperative drives the need for consumption. As a shamanic healer is it my role to keep people coming back for more because the healing is so good? Or is it my job to teach people how to walk away from that which is making them sick in a prayerful way? My answer is that if I do my job well, I don’t have lifelong customers. In fact, my happiest conversations are those that I have with folks where I say, ‘I want you to stop paying me now’. So if my business is my sacred practice and my business needs to produce income in order to pay my bills, then I find myself in an ethical pickle. And when I find myself in an ethical pickle, I journey. I make it sacred. I call counsel with my guides and I humble myself and ask for a check in.
That is just what I did in July of this year. I called a council together, both with some of my closest friends and allies in the 3D realms and with the medicines that I hold dear. My intention was to check in on this clear point of tension in my practice that I uncovered. Here is what I learned. I was shown the specific and intentional ways that the medical industrial complex (which includes the pharmaceutical industry) is infiltrating the sacred underground healing systems that have been thriving both here and abroad for decades. It was explained to me that my role as a spiritual provider is most impactful from the shamanic realms, as facilitated by my guides who exist outside of the constructs of Colonialism. The shamanic realms and the business realms are necessarily incompatible. I was shown that I needed to walk away from situations and industries that lead to spiritual consumerism. And that by doing I would be working toward the real solution to the illness in the world. We need to walk away from and dismantle Colonial Capitalism and commit to the hard work of decolonizing our bodies, minds, institutions and culture.
When I host medicine plants in my body I often have to gently remind them that I am a human being and not a plant. I have to do the same with non-corporeal entities like spirit guides, power animals, or even the construct of Great Spirit. So when I receive big messages like the ones revealed above, I take some time to really investigate how literal they are intended to be interpreted. This message, my friends, was literal. I have been flirting with this tension for the majority of my adult life. Arranging my life in all sorts of contorted and unhealthy shapes like corporate executive, business leader, heterosexual, husband, and Director to pass as a member of the dominant narrative. Or perhaps to align with it just enough to pass as ‘normal’. Well, during our ceremonial work, my spirit council made it clear to me that I had a choice to make. To walk away or to walk towards? There is no more time for straddling the line. The genocide, mass shootings, ecocide, polluting, and discrimination is not going to recede while the systems that create and sustain them still stand.
I am a leader in this world of healing. I carry medicine that has impacted hundreds of lives over the past two years. I am shamanic. And I am insignificant. Unremarkable in the sense that I am only one tiny strand of the intricate web of life. Alone I am breakable, but within my ecosystem I am thunder and lightning. And I am human. And I need to pay rent. And I need to buy food. And I walked away from that council meeting swirling. Knowing my choice was made, knowing the choice of those folks sitting with me in council. And having no idea how I was going to transition. How could I decouple the economic needs from my purpose work without diving back into those contorted shapes and harming my spirit? I began by taking a pause, praying, reducing my group sizes and setting new energetic boundaries to allow for the containers I build to change.
And to be honest, I still don’t know the full answers to the questions I have uncovered. This practice of medicine is just as alive and evolving as the rest of the world. But, this week I got my first paycheck from FedEx. I make $22.50/hr and load your packages onto the back of the FedEx trucks every morning from 6:00a-8:30a. I only make about $200 a week, but it’s a start. It is a message to my guides that I hear them, that I honor the way they want to work medicine in my life. It is a decisive action that shows my commitment to walking my talk. I’m not worth shit to anybody if I am not applying the teachings of my medicine allies into my life. What has surprised me, and taken away my breath a few times, is that these instructions are what was waiting for me on the other side of my success. That, in fact, many of those dreams I had been chasing to start a practice, grow a business and support my family through this work were distracting me from deeper, much harder, change. They weren’t allowing me to practice walking away, or withdrawing as much of my vital life force energy as I can from producing for the Colonial systems of governance.
And, perhaps ironically, I offer this story still open for business. This isn’t my resignation letter. Walking away does not mean I stop offering ceremonies, sessions or support. It means that work is more aligned than it was when I started. These lessons strengthen the medicine practice. My transparency is intended to demonstrate how serious I am about dreaming in a new world. In integration circles I often talk about how we do not grow in places where we are comfortable. Maybe it’s time for all of us to get more uncomfortable, to set down the privilege we have convinced ourselves is justified to hold onto, to refuse to burnout for a system that demands it, to walk away from the illusion of our security on this planet, or our retirement and investments and to begin the difficult work of deconstructing. What is awaiting us on the other side of our dreams? Well, the answers may surprise you–I know they have surprised me!
I offer deep gratitude for these insights, for the courage to walk away, for my sovereign choice, for the magic of this beautiful Earth, for her medicines, and for all of those brothers and sisters who are out there making the same choices. Thank you for your sacrifices, thank you for your prayers. May all beings be Free!